"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" – Martin Luther King Jr.
For Natasha Burton, owner and chef at Mixed Fillings Pie Shop in Jacksonville, there is no greater way to serve her community than sharing her baking talents, but she was eager to take it one step further. One phone call to the Jaguars, dozens of volunteers and 300 chicken pot pies later, an entire neighborhood enjoyed lunch in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"Natasha actually reached out to us and we jumped at the chance to partner with her," said T-Neisha Tate, vice president of social responsibility and impact for the Jaguars. "We want to expand on our commitment to social responsibility by supporting Black-owned businesses and historic communities like the Eastside. Today is just a start of the kind of servant leadership we want to provide."
Today's day of service is part of the Jaguars and NFL's Inspire Change platform and included volunteers from the Jaguars front office as well as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. With financial support for the Jaguars, Burton's staff baked 300 individual chicken pot pies and 300 slices of pecan pie, a well-known favorite of Dr. King's. A third of the meals were given directly to a senior citizen assisted living facility on First Street, while the rest were distributed by volunteers at a socially distanced block party on A. Philip Randolph Blvd. in the heart of Jacksonville's Eastside community.
Located just a few blocks north of TIAA Bank Field and the sports and entertainment complex, the Eastside is a historically African-American community that has seen its share of neglect over the decades.
"Over the years we've seen so much decline in the Eastside neighborhood," said Suzanne Pickett, president of the Historic Eastside Community Development Corporation (CDC). "To see all these volunteers and organizations come out and show that they care…our main purpose is to sow love first and treat the community well."
Pickett and the Eastside CDC are kicking off their "Root and Rebuild" initiative today in partnership with the United Way and the Jaguars. Their goal is to keep the community rooted in the characteristics that represent Eastside families, but also rebuild the neighborhood to be a complement to all the growth in downtown Jacksonville. This begins with today's celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
"We're still trying to make his dream happen of fairness and equality and for everyone to get the same quality of life experience," said Pickett.
Volunteers join local Black-owned business in feeding the entire neighborhood